3 : SALVAGE : EXPLORING DECENTRALISATION
As you drive into BR Hills, wide flatlands give way to thick forests and winding narrow roads. The forests around BR Hills have been declared a protected tiger reserve and the area boasts a significant number of tigers resulting in the inevitable nature tourism. The VGKK also runs a modest but tasteful resort called Gorukana that is meant to bring self-sustenance to the operation. Gorukana organises daily safaris, one in the morning and one in the evening usually led by young men from the tribal community who have acquired some formal training as naturalists. One senses that most of these men have a deep sense of attachment to the forest and natural aptitude towards guiding outsiders on Safaris. Large Indian cities are now completely unnatural spaces and yet have fairly settled character. In the larger psyche of the city the separation from the natural world is experienced in vague sub conscious ways and perhaps, in intellectual ways. In BR Hills and among the Soliga people, however- like so many other tribes around the world â€“ this separation seems raw. To us, as it must be for them, the incongruity between their more tribal philosophy, ethics, aesthetics, behaviour and the mainstream society into which they are being integrated is clear. It is visible in a hybrid house in a village close to a forest where half the house is generic concrete construction and the other half is primarily a wood and mud construction. It is visible in stories where Soliga men move to cities to find work and come back a few years later unable to bear the separation and the overwhelming urban life. However, the forest is a shrinking space for tribes in most parts of the world. Even if forests remain, they would as protected sanctuaries â€“ themselves unnatural spaces unable to contain the scope of all economic, cultural and spiritual activities of an entire people. Therefore in the long run, it seems, the Soliga people must integrate into the mainstream economy and culture. Whatever ideological position one may hold for or against their integration, the inevitability of it, requires us all to contribute to a sensitive and smooth integration. The forests themselves as protected sanctuaries should be largely entrusted to tribal communities. This would serve a twofold purpose: firstly it would ensure that the conservation of forest is in the hands of communities that understand it the best and feel a deep sense of connection to it. Secondly it would soften the separation for the tribal communities by keeping them close to the forest and handing them a stake in its conservation. Additionally the tribal communities must be key stakeholders in any discussion to decide the level and type of access that outsiders are given to the forest. They should be empowered to essentially argue and vote for the forest. This would for example mean that large sprawling resorts are not built in forest areas and instead more modest and sustainable accommodations are provided to outsiders.
A publication by UnBox in partnership with Mozilla's Open IoT Studio.